I was honored to join an august group of international scholars from the United States, Russia, Germany, Iran, and Singapore to discuss the lasting influence and heritage of Critical Theory. I presented my paper, “Between Ethno-nationalism and Pathological Critique: Critical Theory as Critique and Defense of the Western Tradition,” which I intend to extend into a publishable article in the next month. After the great discussions we had during this event, there is much more to think though, explore, and analyze. Thank you to Seyed Javad Miri and Dmitry Ivanov for facilitating this great event.
I am pleased to announce that an essay I co-authored with Dr. Rudolf J. Siebert and Dr. Michael R. Ott has now been published in Jeremiah Morelock’s edited book, How to Critique Authoritarian Populism: Methodologies of the Frankfurt School. This book has been published by Brill and contains eighteen chapters from a variety of important scholars in the field of Critical Theory, sociology, and political philosophy. Our essay is entitled “Mythology, Enlightenment, and Dialectics: Determinate Negation.” This book will later be published in paperback by Haymarket Books (Chicago).
Link to Brill’s Website: How to Critique Authoritarian Populism
I was fortunate to be able to contribute to the discussion on the importance of the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979, with Fasih Osmani of Saed News, an academic portal in Iran. We discussed Imam Khomeini, the sociologist and revolutionary Ali Shariati, the Frankfurt School, and other pertinent topics. Here are the links to the interview:
In an effort to preserve, study, and further develop the work of Dr. Rudolf J. Siebert, and the “dialectical religiology” of the Critical Theory of Religion and Society, I have launched a new website. I hope this new website will be useful for scholars and researchers as they study critical theory, political theology, Hegelian philosophy, and other topics that Siebert has written about over the course of the last half century.
Additionally, many of Dr. Siebert’s works will be republished by Ekpyrosis Press, a new academic peer-reviewed publishing house, dedicate to the advancement of dialectical and emancipatory thought in an age of apathy and nationalism. Dr. Siebert’s first book with Ekpyrosis Press, Hegel and the Critical Theory of Religion: Determinate Negation, will be available in the spring of 2021.
Please visit us through the link below:
As editor of the Islamic Perspective Journal, I’m happy to announce that the latest edition, vol. 24, is now available. IPJ is a peer-review academic journal dedicated to the investigation of all things Islamic and Muslim. It is published bi-annually by the London Academic of Iranian Studies. In this volume, my work on Islamic socialism as it relates to Dr. Ali Shariati is included.
I’m please to announce that my latest book on the Frankfurt School’s dialectical approach to Abrahamic religions is now available. The book was published by Ekpyrosis Press, a new publishing house dedicated to dialectical and critical thought. Below is the description of the book:
In his book, The Frankfurt School and the Dialectics of Religion: Translating Critical Faith into Critical Theory, I argue that at the core of the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory resides a secularized theology. Unlike their predecessors, especially Feuerbach, Marx, Lenin, Freud, and Nietzsche, who argued for an abstract negation of religion, the first generation of Critical Theorists followed Hegel’s logic and attempted to rescue and preserve the revolutionary, emancipatory, and liberational aspects of religion in their own secular non-conformist philosophy. They saw in both Judaism and Christianity certain conceptual and semantic elements that could be enlisted into their struggle for a future reconciled society, one beyond the slaughterbench of history. In order to rescue religion, theological concepts had to go through a process of translation, wherein such materials migrate from the depth of the religious mythos into publicly accessible reasoning, thus making the revolutionary impulse of prophetic religion accessible to the secular world. I also argue that this translation of religion remains relevant to today’s post-secular societies, especially in regard to religious Muslims attempting to find their place in Western countries, which are often hostile to religion and religiosity. Examining the strengths and weaknesses of Habermas’ “translation proviso,” he argues that both religious and secular citizens of the West can learn from the Frankfurt School’s dialectical approach to religion in order to find a space wherein both religious faith and secular reason can not only co-exist, but can also join together in the process of creating a more reconciled future society.
ISBN (Hardcover): 978-1-7350576-3-7 $39.00 (332 pages) Hardcover
ISBN (Paperback): 978-1-7350576-2-0 $28.00 (332 pages) Paperback
Praise for The Frankfurt School and the Dialectics of Religion:
Dustin J. Byrd’s book, The Frankfurt School and the Dialectics of Religion: Translating Critical Faith into Critical Theory, is a comprehensive examination of Horkheimer, Adorno, Löwenthal, and Benjamin’s critical rescue and emancipation of the utopian, transcendent, and non-conforming aspects of Abrahamic religion. Like Hegel before him, Dr. Byrd not only reveals the dialectics of history as expressed in the work of the Frankfurt School, but also determinately negates them in his own work on Islam and Muslims. One cannot find a better expression and expansion of the Critical Theory of Religion today.
~ Dr. Rudolf J. Siebert, Emeritus Professor of Religion and Society at Western Michigan University
The Many Faces of Populism: Perspectives from Critical Theory and Beyond.
Today, more than ever, it is easy to understand how populism has become such a contested word in contemporary politics. Despite its relatively short history (i.e. the term dates back to the late 19th century and the arrival of the populist People’s Party in the United States), the term follows a rather volatile trajectory in terms of its historical development and presence as a political practice. When we look at its political and moral impact, one can see that despite its often, strict national commitments and narratives, populism is rather a global political phenomenon. As embodiment of anti- establishment narratives, polarizing attitudes, and emancipatory appeal, we can follow its occurrence from Central and Eastern Europe (i.e. in the form of nationalist strong figures such as Victor Orban, Vladimir Putin, or the Law and Justice party in Poland), Latin America (i.e. the left-wing economic populists like Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro), the USA and UK (i.e. in the form of white supremacist of Donald Trump and nationalism of Brexit supporters), the Middle East (i.e. religious conservativism and nationalism spearheaded with the figure of Tayip Erdogan in Turkey), all the way to China and India (i.e. the increasing authoritarianism of Xi Jinping and the Hindu nationalism of Narendra Modi).
The problem is that the term “populism” has become so broad, and that undifferentiated character of its proliferation in media leaves us with conflicting meaning, but rather strong sense of crisis on which this phenomenon ultimately thrives. Today, a populist may be an individual who is either on the right or the left side of the political spectrum, nationalist and/or nativist, xenophobe, Fascist, conservative, liberal, a person with anti-globalization sentiments or a justified revolt in the face of inequalities that present economic and political agenda engenders. Although the versatile nature of populism makes it relevant designator for the parties and leaders across the political spectrum, most of the time general public and media see it as an inherently far-right phenomenon that can be applied only to parties and leaders who fit the typical nationalist, xenophobic mold. For the most part, this is a consequence of the electoral success that far right populist establishments have gained in recent years (i.e. Donald Trump in the USA, Marine Le Pen in France, AfD – Alternative for Germany in Germany, Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz in Hungary, etc.). Relatively few populist parties on the left can claim the same kind of momentum or media attention (e.g. Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece). Of course, geographically and ideologically, right-wing populism in Europe and the United States is not a uniform development with clearly defined characteristics. It takes different forms depending on specific factors such as historical tradition, institutions, overall general appeal, the nature of social crisis, and, of course, culture.
In this edited volume, which would help fill a gap in the existing literature on Critical Theory and populism, we would focus on the multiple dimensions of historical and contemporary contexts for today’s rising populist movements (e.g., political, moral, economic, ecological, cultural, identity, etc.), and their often – but not necessarily – hostile relations towards cosmopolitanism, globalization, environmentalism, and general notions of inclusion and justice. We encourage submissions of original research that critically explore populism in connection with different but related concepts/phenomena such as: nationalism, authoritarianism, democracy, socialism, etc. Our overall project revolves around (a) conceptualization, and (b) empirical critical analysis. We are especially interested in original contributions that discuss the following topics:
- How to conceptualize populism and other issues (e.g., nationalism, authoritarianism) together but without conflating the terms, and without homogenizing the great variety of ways in which populist movements differ from one another during the last few decades, and still do differ from one another nowadays?
- How to rigorously attend to the particularity of specific manifestations of populism, without eschewing the use of general theoretical frameworks to guide conceptualization and interpret findings?
- What would be the task of Critical Theory (in the tradition of the early Frankfurt School) in light of these concerns?
- How to integrate Critical Theory with other important critical paradigms, like the ecological one, decoloniality, postcolonialism, feminism, critical race theory, disability studies, poststructuralism/postmodernism, etc. – to understand populism in a variety of different ways (i.e. economy, culture, ecology, gender, race, etc.)?
- Differences between “progressive” and “reactionary” populism
- Comparative analysis of populist movements
We are also interested in original contributions informed by Critical Theory and discussing topics such as (but not limited to):
- Populism as a political theology: What are its relations with religion? How does that impact image of other forms of spirituality (e.g. image of Islam in the Western, predominantly Christian, milieu?)
- Populism and National History/Tradition: What are some implications in harnessing national history to populist political causes?
- Populism in relation to affect and/or rationality
- Populism as Identity Politics?
- Polarization and the relation to the Other.
- Populism, Nationalism, and Ideology: How are these concepts interrelated? Is populismform of ideology? How can ideology critique and discourse analysis help us disclose contradictory nature of (far-right/authoritarian) populist narratives?
- Geographical specificity of populist movements. What are specific causes of the nature and aims of populist figures in different parts of the world?
- Populism and Democracy: What is the relation between populism and democracy? Are they mutually exclusive?
- Populism and Globalization: Are populism and globalization incompatible? Is there room for reconciliation?
- Populism and nationalism: Right wing populism and nationalism seem to share deep ties reflected in anti-immigrant, Islamophobic positions and alleged shift from free market towards “protection of the people” in face of vulnerabilities that globalization engenders.
- Populism and Media. What is the relationship between social-media and support for populism? What is the role of media outlets in sustaining appeal (or even increasing support for) of populist narratives and figures?
- Populism and Ecology. What is the relation between climate change skepticism and thepopulist political program and populist base? Why are populist parties often hostile to climate change policy?
All material should be submitted sending an e-mail to special issue’s editors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Dustin Byrd, Mlado Ivanovic, Jeremiah Morelock)
Please send a (.odt, .doc or .docx) file containing a long abstract (1,000 words max) and a title, prepared for blind review with all revealing references to the author removed. All personal information (name, affiliation, and contact) must be entailed in the body of the email. Deadline for abstract submission is September 30, 2020. Decisions will be made within a month, by October 31, 2020.
Upon notification of acceptance, you will be invited to submit the full paper (between 6,000 and 9,000 words including footnotes and references) by May 31, 2021. All contributions will be peer reviewed, and requests for revisions will be made by July 31, 2021. The final version of the paper will be due September 1, 2021.
In early 2020, Seyed Javad Miri and I published the Frantz Fanon and Emancipatory Social Theory: A View from the Wretched with Brill. We are happy to announce that the paperback will be released this fall by Haymarket books in Chicago. This collection contains an original essay by Mumia Abu-Jamal on Frantz Fanon’s influence on the Black Panther Party.
In Frantz Fanon and Emancipatory Social Theory: A View from the Wretched, Dustin J. Byrd and Seyed Javad Miri bring together a collection of essays by a variety of scholars who explore the lasting influence of Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist, revolutionary, and social theorist. Fanon’s work not only gave voice to the “wretched” in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), but also shaped the radical resistance to colonialism, empire, and racism throughout much of the world. His seminal works, such as Black Skin, White Masks, and The Wretched of the Earth, were read by The Black Panther Party in the United States, anti-imperialists in Africa and Asia, and anti-monarchist revolutionaries in the Middle East. Today, many revolutionaries and scholars have returned to Fanon’s work, as it continues to shed light on the nature of colonial domination, racism, and class oppression.
Contributors include: Syed Farid Alatas, Rose Brewer, Dustin J. Byrd, Sean Chabot, Richard Curtis, Nigel C. Gibson, Ali Harfouch, Timothy Kerswell, Seyed Javad Miri, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Pramod K. Nayar, Elena Flores Ruíz, Majid Sharifi, Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib and Esmaeil Zeiny.
Here’s a link to the book on Haymarket’s website: Here
I was honored to have the opportunity to work with Muhammad Sadegh Abdollahi at Javan newspaper in Iran to discuss my work and thoughts on the revolutionary thinker Ali Shariati, who Seyed Javad Miri and I published a book about a few years ago: Ali_Shariati (Haymarket Books). Ali Shariati was intensely influential in shaping the revolutionary mentality of the Iranian people prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Sadly, he died in 1977, never seeing his people emancipated from the U.S. installed dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah. Nevertheless, Shariati’s intellectual influence lives on within all those who struggle to liberate their nations from oppression, and his philosophical and sociological works remain a vital source of new thinking for both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, academics, and activists.
In the interview for Javan newspaper, we also discussed my new book, “Critical Theory of Religion: From the Frankfurt School to Emancipatory Islamic Thought,” published by Ekpyrosis Press, and available on Amazon.com: Critical-Religion Softcovers are available for $28 and hardcovers will be available soon. Buy your copy now while supplies last!